Let Me Tell You The Tale Of A Hot Rod Race
August 8, 2010 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Colin Berry's Spinout is a a touching, tragic story about his older brother, Kevin. Kevin competed in--and very nearly won--the All-American Soap Box Derby, but lost to Bobby Lange, the son of ski-boot magnate and engineer Robert Lange Sr..

One year later, Bobby’s cousin, Jimmy Gronen, also won the Derby. But officials noticed a strange lurch as Gronen’s car came off the metal starting blocks. The next day, officials X-rayed the car and discovered a hidden electromagnet Lange had wired to a switch Jimmy activated by resting his helmet against the headrest.

Elsewhere, people are participating in Soap Box Derbies of their own--some legal, others not so much.
posted by mattdidthat (19 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
For his part, Jimmy Gronen tells his story here.
posted by mattdidthat at 2:14 PM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

We must protect our children from teh scourge of underground soap box derbying. See the new driver's ed film Terror on the Hill.
posted by Babblesort at 2:17 PM on August 8, 2010

Seriously though that's a pretty nifty design. Shame about the cheating.

I think you missed a chance for a title though...
Ski-Boot Magnate's Magnet Boost Scheme.
posted by Babblesort at 2:22 PM on August 8, 2010 [9 favorites]

Page 2 of the Westworld article isn't working. Here's the full printer-version article.
posted by mattdidthat at 2:31 PM on August 8, 2010

While it's really too much to believe that winning the Soap Box Derby would have turned Kevin's life around for him, I can't help but wish that someone would force Bob Lange, Jr. to read this article. I don't know what the man's doing now -- his name is too common to give any clear Google results -- but I don't doubt he did very well out of life.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:58 PM on August 8, 2010

I think any contest where a complex item has to be built by a young person is going to be a field day for cheating. There are parents (usually fathers) who would be unable to resist "helping." And once that path is trod down, it's pretty much doomed.

Not sure what the fix would be.

The bad luck kid reminds me of IRFH's awesome tale of the scientific punishment system he grew up with.
posted by maxwelton at 3:45 PM on August 8, 2010

This reminds me of the Pinewood Derby where some kids didn't even work the wood, but instead just bought a pre-formed race-car-shaped wood chassis. And then there were kids putting graphite powder on their axles and adding lead weight. As opposed to the one kid who just painted his uncut block of wood orange and said it was a Tri-Met bus—and I think his bus ended up doing pretty well. Another coup for public transit!

The Fast and the Furious: Webelos Drift
posted by blueberry at 4:26 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

No kid should be encouraged in that kind of perfidiousness by anyone more closely related than an uncle.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:45 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Um ... I'm confused. He lost because his brake failed and he wrecked his car. Cheating by someone else; whether a "rich kid" and "cocky" , or not, had nothing to do with it.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 5:22 PM on August 8, 2010

My dad "helped" me outright win the wooden car race in 7th grade shop class by putting lead weights in the bottom center of the car and making the axles turn smoother with graphite.

The difference is, he made me tell the shop teacher about the mods. The teacher said it was fine, and seemed glad that my dad and I had worked on the project together. WIN.
posted by HopperFan at 5:23 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mea culpa. It was Robocop is Bleeding's comment about The Wheel I was thinking of. I now have to go spin it.
posted by maxwelton at 5:58 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Cripes! The Wheel is a perfect model for the possible outcomes of Colin Berry's life.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:58 PM on August 8, 2010

I OWNED the Cub Scout Regatta. Graphite be damned, that sucker's all about LUNG POWER.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:00 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am convinced that at least a partial fix for pinewood derby is to have a totally separate parent's class where hyper-competitive fathers (and mothers) can have their own go at the track.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 9:23 PM on August 8, 2010

I second @Leotrotsky. Rain gutter regatta was a blast.
posted by broken wheelchair at 11:12 PM on August 8, 2010

My father gave me a set of official wheels and a sheet of plywood, and said, "here, build a Soap Box Derby car." I felt that he had failed me as a father, and I envied those kids whose fathers built them elaborate cars, while they swept up sawdust.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:36 PM on August 8, 2010

Sad as the story is, one can't but come to the conclusion that Kevin's "bad luck" was a combination of wrong choices and a nasty temper. Trying to blame his demise on a cheating, "cocky" rich kid three decades later points to the kind of rejection of responsability that's more destructive than any run of bad luck.
posted by Skeptic at 4:26 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

My Pinewood Derby car used mercury instead of lead for weight (it was the 60s, no one cared). I think we can all breath a sigh of relief I never tried to enter Soap Box Derby.
posted by tommasz at 7:12 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Fuckin' magnates, how do they work?
posted by chavenet at 9:40 AM on August 19, 2010

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